|By Jeri Donn||
|October 5, 2012 09:45 AM EDT||
Cloud computing has changed the way we work. People and businesses can now access services, applications and infrastructure over the Internet, with lower costs, higher productivity and an enhanced user experience.
While cloud computing has revolutionized many aspects of business, its effects have been quite dramatic across supply and demand management. Cloud-based Sales & Operations Planning (S&OP) is particularly powerful, connecting disparate demand, supply and financial data from a wide swath of packaged and home-grown enterprise information systems as well as a forest of spreadsheets, harmonizing everything into a single, meaningful plan. Delivering this supply chain "Big Data," analytics and reporting in the cloud means that it can be deployed, scaled, and interconnected quickly, enabling truly collaborative supply and demand planning.
Cloud makes S&OP faster, more transparent and collaborative. It works, it's proven, and it can immediately adjust as needed based on changing business demands. Applications delivered via cloud not only makes it easier to connect disparate business processes and applications, it eliminates the traditional ‘forklift upgrade' process of traditional software vendors. Keeping up with the latest innovations is automatic, so enterprises can focus on their business instead of technology issues.
An Early Commitment to Cloud for Enterasys
For wired and wireless network infrastructure supplier Enterasys Networks, the cloud was not simply a path to IT value and cost savings, but rather it is considered a strategic weapon for competing against very large competitors. Enterasys has rolled out a broad range of cloud solutions company-wide, from gmail and Google Apps, in addition, to replacing Microsoft SharePoint, with Box for cloud-based content management and on-line collaboration. An avid advocate for cloud, Enterasys CIO Dan Petlon is a member of the customer advisory board for its cloud CRM solution, SalesForce.com.
One of its early business processes to benefit from cloud computing is S&OP, a journey which began in 2005. By harnessing the power of the cloud through S&OP vendor Steelwedge to better align its demand and supply plans internally as well as with suppliers and customers, Enterasys has achieved better demand predictability, reduced inventory and contributed to a 95% rate of global customer satisfaction.
The company's achievements have not gone unnoticed. Because of their innovative S&OP use of cloud computing, Enterasys has been recognized by Gartner as embodying advanced S&OP Maturity. The company's exceptional S&OP practices have resulted in three years of sequential growth during a period its peers were plagued with sluggish growth. With cloud-based S&OP technology, Enterasys identified $3 - $4 million in savings per quarter, and, in 2012, achieved the milestone of eleven consecutive quarters of improved year-over-year growth.
Creating a Demand-Driven Mindset
Enterasys' wired and wireless network infrastructure & security solutions help enterprises stay in front of changing connectivity and security needs. Back in 2004, the company realized that the impact of constantly evolving global business change on its supply chain meant that improving its ability to predict demand was paramount. The firm subsequently embarked on a CEO-driven mission to transform itself into a lean, responsive and much more demand-driven business.
According to Vice President of Operations Jack Lyon, "We needed to do a better job at predicting demand, so that we could reduce excess and obsolete inventory; you own it and have to write it off." Lyon's baseline assessment of supply chain challenges also included order delays, sluggish market response, short product life cycles and organization silos of information. Compounding the problem was a completely outsourced supply chain with contract manufacturers building all of its products.
Enterasys embarked on a mission to create a worldwide collaborative integrated process and methodology that supports and delivers a demand plan with one agreed set of numbers. The company set out to find an IT solution incorporating a S&OP software platform.
S&OP Year One: Anticipating the Market
Within a year of Lyon's assessment, the company improved its bottom line by applying new techniques and cloud-based technology to a proven S&OP process. With the cloud-based S&OP platform from Steelwedge, Enterasys connected its people and processes to better understand operational tradeoffs when changes in the business environment did not align with its business plan. The company selected Steelwedge's S&OP solution because it is built on a single, cloud-based Integrated Business Planning platform used by large, global manufacturers across multiple industries.
Enterasys uses Steelwedge to unite people, process and technology for an agile planning environment and growing business.
In 2005 the Enterasys S&OP process brought together a cross functional group of leaders from sales, marketing, product management, operations, finance and supply chain. At the same time, Steelwedge integrated and normalized the data from each of those groups that resided in their respective systems such as SAP and Salesforce.com --and eventually added in BigMachines as well. From there, Enterasys drove significant and immediate changes in its business starting with better demand predictability, which in turn, directly affected its ability to respond to change.
For example, within a year, the company could determine in near real-time when a product was not selling as well as expected and drive demand-shaping activities to stimulate sales. Alternatively, if products were selling better than forecast, Enterasys could look first at sales data to see if the growth was sustainable, then reach out to its contract manufacturers to ascertain their capacity to boost production short and mid- term.
The bottom line was clear as well: decreased excess and obsolescence accounted for a whopping $3 to $4 million in savings per quarter initially.
But better demand planning was just the beginning of the ongoing transformation that Enterasys continues to drive from cloud-enabled S&OP. Armed with cross-company data and insights, the S&OP team moved its discussions from having enough supply to fill a particular order, to strategizing on improving gross margins. It regularly uses S&OP to power "what if" scenario planning across many facets of its business to understand the impacts of potential changes on customer satisfaction, revenue, sales and production.
Seven Years Later: Collaborating and Orchestrating
Enterasys has taken a purposeful, incremental "win" approach to driving advancement and ROI from its S&OP. Seven years later, the company has a global, collaborative and integrated S&OP process and methodology, powered with the Steelwedge cloud-based S&OP Platform. Its demand and supply plans are aligned internally and externally with suppliers and customers. In turn, better balance is delivering better predictability, better cash spend and better customer success.
Among the results Enterasys achieved from its mature use of cloud-based S&OP:
- Timely and accurate information through automation
- Cross functional alignment through a collaborative planning approach
- Higher customer satisfaction through better fulfillment
- Sustained high global customer satisfaction (ATP): 95%
- Customer fulfillment: over 97%
- Reduced inventory: 21% year over year
- Forecast error (MAPE): averaging 24%
- Revenue impact less than 5% (of material overhead/excess inventory)
Most impressive though was that Enterasys has realized year over year growth for the past three years (2009-2012). Even in 2011, where its sector saw a 3% drop, Enterasys kept growing and outperforming all other networking companies. Critical to that business stability is Enterasys' cloud-based S&OP foundation.
Crawl, Walk, Run, Sprint: the Promise and Perils of Optimizing Business in a Volatile World
Under Lyon's leadership, S&OP has become a key strategic lever for the company's continued market growth and competitive advantage. But Lyon isn't resting on his laurels. He maintains that the ever shifting marketplace requires constant vigilance on agile business planning to maintain great customer success.
"We traded up our problems, by transforming from a manually intensive supply chain into a lean and responsive organization," says Lyon. "For us, success is all about strengthening the collaboration with customers, delivering on our promises and meeting their expectations. Therefore, our optimization work is never done."
In summary, the cloud-based S&OP transformation at Enterasys resulted in the following improvements and lessons learned:
Stronger collaboration within the organization: A demand plan with one agreed set of numbers fosters alignment and a "we're in it together" culture, eliminating finger-pointing.
Better inventory balance: S&OP helps model the optimal inventory balance. Keeping the lowest possible inventory is not always the right solution: balance needs to be struck between revenue growth and high customer satisfaction while protecting the balance sheet.
Automation powers valuable analysis: Integrated data and executive level reports from the S&OP platform facilitate a collaborative, global S&OP process, freeing resource time for analysis vs. data gathering and manipulation. This, in turn, powers continuous improvement and faster process maturity.
Enabling "bluebird" opportunism: Insights from accurate S&OP data and timely "what if" scenario testing supports "bluebird" demand opportunities that weren't in the forecast at all. With tighter contract manufacturer collaboration, this provides reliable answers to questions like: Can we support it? If not now, when? What other options do we have for supply if we don't have it?
Lyon sums up Enterasys' S&OP success by stating, "We've been successful with S&OP because we've taken an iterative, ‘Crawl, Walk, Run, Sprint' approach to implementation, testing, measurement and advancement. "It's a non-stop journey. The only constant in business is change, whether its market disruptions, economic volatility, a natural disaster...or you name it: they all have varying degrees of impact on the process. Achieving a ‘sprint', may only happen for a matter of seconds before continuous improvement kicks in and you re-evaluate. But we have an agile foundation in place to help us deliver better, more consistently-regardless of the circumstance."